VAS membership is composed of 32 Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs). They have one mission at their heart: to build empowered, resilient communities with a thriving third sector. The 32 Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) build on a long history of local third sector infrastructure. They have experience of helping communities help themselves through the power of volunteering. They harness the passion of individuals to come together to improve their community. They build social value by developing enterprising agencies whose profit is for the community they seek to serve. They put the community at the heart of local decisions by ensuring the views of the third sector and the communities they support are heard and understood. They work without boundaries to broker social capital and bring people together to deliver change.

How a TSI works

Like the third sector they serve Scotland’s TSIs are diverse reflecting local needs, priorities and heritage. 20 of them are single agencies and 12 of them are formed of partnerships across bodies historically associated with supporting their local voluntary sector, social enterprises and volunteers. Some of these are ‘Volunteer Centres’, ‘Centres for Voluntary Service’ or ‘Social Enterprise Networks’. Your local TSI might be known by one of these titles, as a ‘TSI’ or a local ‘Voluntary Action’ agency. They are independent from Government but the Scottish Government invests in four key functions which form a bedrock to their role.

TSIs are held to account through a set of common standards, services and outcomes agreed with the Scottish Government and against which they report. From this bedrock they grow a diverse range of services and support that is flexible and focussed on need as they find it.

Increasingly TSIs also play a role in brokering social capital, bringing together different agents locally across sectors to address specific issues from reshaping care to early years, community transport and more.


Helping communities help themselves through the power of volunteering

When people volunteer, communities – and the lives of volunteers themselves – can be transformed. 30% of Scottish adults volunteer and 42% volunteer informally. They contribute £2.4bn to the Scottish economy but their impact is worth much more than money.¹ By supporting and developing volunteering locally TSIs maximise that impact empower communities to help themselves.

Volunteers come to their local TSI for different reasons. Often they want to give something back, to support their community or effect change. Sometimes they seek to build skills or experience for life or work. Volunteering in all its forms is important to TSIs. In 2012/13 TSIs helped over 25,000 volunteers. They do this by matching the skills and experience of volunteers with the needs of third sector organisations locally, providing advice, expertise and connections. Sometimes the support involves training or mentoring to help people who want to move back into work or find work for the first time. TSIs usually seek feedback following referral to a placement to understand how effective their support has been. TSIs and third sector organisations promote volunteering opportunities through their own websites and a national website, http://www.volunteerscotland.org.uk.

TSI also locally promote a national accreditation scheme hosted by Voluntary Action Scotland called Saltire Awards. They work with youth groups, schools and the third sector locally to ensure young people have the opportunity to volunteer and can be accredited for their achievement. Often they support young people directly into volunteering opportunities opening up a new world of experience and opportunity. Team challenges, skills development and charting progress are all provided and young people themselves can track progress via a website, http://www.saltireawards.org.uk.

Example: The Saltire Awards in East Lothian
Between August 2012 and March 2013, Volunteer Development East Lothian worked with 16 school pupils aged 15-16. The project was tailored for those with behavioural issues, poor attendance records or difficulty with literacy and numeracy. It aimed to boost participants’ confidence, self-esteem and communication skills by setting a target for each to achieve a 200 hour Saltire Ascent certificate.
Activities included conservation work, fundraising, painting and decorating and inter-generational work, as well as helping to improve literacy and numeracy in the classroom. One group were given training in presentation to prepare for a mock ‘Dragon’s Den’, which resulted in a £1,000 grant for the makeover of a local hospital cafe.

Building social value: profiting the community

Scotland is a world leader in social enterprise. This innovative and vibrant business model is transforming lives, creating jobs, boosting regeneration and improving our environment in many parts of the economy and in every community.

Increasingly the value of dynamic, enterprising organisations – where all profit is invested for community benefit – is being realised. Social enterprises take on many different forms, including registered Charities, Community Interest Companies, Social Firms , SCIOs, Housing Associations, Credit Unions and Co-ops. Social entrepreneurs are driven by both public service and charitable values, ploughing profit back into communities and into their social and/or environmental purpose.

For TSIs social enterprises are an essential part of a diverse third sector and are supported through the provision of advice, guidance and business support. Organisations who want to become social enterprises, social enterprises that want to grow and charities that want to become more enterprising are all supported in different ways.

TSIs also illustrate to groups the benefits of becoming a social enterprise business and the different forms this can take, often referring on to national support organisations. They also provide training sessions, meeting space and social enterprise networking events covering topics from legal structures, to marketing and funding opportunities.

TSIs seek to create a local climate in which social enterprises can flourish. They work with statutory partners on issues such as Community Benefit Clauses or improving tendering opportunities. They also seek to develop opportunities for mutual sharing of resources and knowledge between social enterprises and others. For TSIs social enterprise development is vital as a means to build social value and sustainability, making profit and investing every penny back into the community.

Example: CraftHub Orkney

A group of people sought to set up a co-operative of local residents and craftspeople, with the aim of setting up a retail outlet. Voluntary Action Orkney arranged a planning session, at which they provided information about legal structures and gave contact details of similar projects. Voluntary Action Orkney also advised on business planning, resulting in a £1500 start-up grant from Business Gateway, and £12,500 salary costs for a part-time manager from the local development trust.

The enterprise registered as a Community Interest Company and was named ‘CraftHub Orkney’. It continues to receive support in day-to-day running from Voluntary Action Orkney.


Harnessing the passion of individuals to come together to improve their community

Scotland’s third sector – our community groups, charities – big and small, our local associations, social enterprises and campaign groups are diverse, vital and an essential fabric of our society. They grow from people with a passion coming together to support their community, to address an issue or concern and deliver change. Doing so is rarely easy but with the right support, expertise and connections the challenges can be overcome and the third sector can and often is at the heart of transforming communities.

Scotland’s TSIs are of the third sector and for the third sector. They build on a long heritage of helping the third sector in all its forms to tackle the challenges it faces and harness its potential. Charities, community groups, voluntary organisations and social enterprises come to their TSI for many different reasons. From help with constitutions and charity registration, providing independent examinations of accounts or developing better governance and attracting new trustees. Support can often be intensive, on-going and on a one to one basis. Funding, legal issues, finance and governance account for the most substantial part of the support provided. Often a charity can come through the door with one concern but it may transpire that a range of issues require attention. Therefore the TSI will provide bespoke support ensuring the organisation is fit for purpose and can deliver for its community.

Networking, communicating opportunities, training, briefings and meetings around common issues of concern help third sector organisations to go further and grow their role. Supporting the third sector often illustrates a key strength for TSIs – that of mixed and bespoke support that aims to fit around the needs of an organisation.

Example: Strengthening links with funders

In Argyll and Bute, the TSI is supporting a community group which runs a community centre – but is unincorporated and without a constitution. The TSI is supporting the organisation to enter into a management agreement with the local authority to operate the centre, with the Council maintaining and repairing the building in exchange for a reasonable rent. The group is concerned about their liabilities, and the TSI has supported them to understand their responsibilities; to strengthen their governance; and to attract new members. The management agreement has been adapted to reflect these changes; and this has resulted in the community centre continuing to be a resource for the local community, run by the community through a well informed Board of Trustees.

Putting the community at the heart of local decisions

When communities are at the heart of local decisions needs can be better addressed. The third sector sees this need all the time. It has a unique perspective and an irreplaceable contribution to make in addressing need. That’s why TSIs seek to put the third sector at the heart of local decision making. When Community Planning is at its best it recognises community planning partners – including the third sector – as equals, sharing in the decision making and in the provision which delivers local outcomes. As organisations and people who support communities the third sector has much to contribute – knowledge, expertise, services, volunteers and a unique connectedness. However, making that knowledge and contribution impact on decisions takes time, focus, expertise and influencing skills. For TSIs the decisions made locally are of vital importance. They influence those decisions with the views and contributions of the third sector in order to meet wider community needs.

TSIs contribute views, knowledge and experience of the third sector locally through their permanent place on the Community Planning Partnership at the highest level. Almost all TSIs are involved at all stages of the community planning process and all are involved in signing off the Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) – the basis for a community plan across partners locally. TSIs and their colleagues in the wider third sector also take part in a huge range of structures locally to articulate the third sector’s contribution ranging across topics from reshaping care, early years provision, community transport, community safety and other areas of work determined locally or by national policy priority.

TSIs don’t fulfil all of the third sector engagement requirements themselves. A range of work takes place – often through a third sector forum – to ensure the wider third sector is informed, engaged and influencing local outcomes and delivery. TSIs support third sector organisations themselves to take part recognising areas of expertise and experience. As a result TSIs increasingly provide a bridge that connects local decisions to the local third sector and ensures that the value of increasingly limited public expenditure is focussed on local need.

Building the third sector relationship with community planning

When communities are at the heart of local decisions needs can be better addressed.  The third sector sees this need all the time.  It has a unique perspective and an irreplaceable contribution to make in addressing need.  That’s why TSIs seek to put the third sector at the heart of local decision making.  When Community Planning is at its best it recognises community planning partners – including the third sector – as equals, sharing in the decision making and in the provision which delivers local outcomes.  As organisations and people who support communities the third sector has much to contribute – knowledge, expertise, services, volunteers and a unique connectedness.  However, making that knowledge and contribution impact on decisions takes time, focus, expertise and influencing skills.  For TSIs the decisions made locally are of vital importance.  They influence those decisions with the views and contributions of the third sector in order to meet wider community needs.

TSIs contribute views, knowledge and experience of the third sector locally through their permanent place on the Community Planning Partnership at the highest level.  Almost all TSIs are involved at all stages of the community planning process and all are involved in signing off the Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) – the basis for a community plan across partners locally.  TSIs and their colleagues in the wider third sector also take part in a huge range of structures locally to articulate the third sector’s contribution ranging across topics from reshaping care, early years provision, community transport, community safety and other areas of work determined locally or by national policy priority.

TSIs don’t fulfil all of the third sector engagement requirements themselves.  A range of work takes place – often through a third sector forum – to ensure the wider third sector is informed, engaged and influencing local outcomes and delivery.  TSIs support third sector organisations themselves to take part recognising areas of expertise and experience.  As a result TSIs increasingly provide a bridge that connects local decisions to the local third sector and ensures that the value of increasingly limited public expenditure is focussed on local need.

Example:  Involvement in the Single Outcome Agreement

Voluntary Action East Renfrewshire was heavily involved in the drafting of the new Single Outcome Agreement for the Community Planning Partnership.  It was involved in an appreciative inquiry exercise about being a third sector organisation in East Renfrewshire, and supported the development of equality outcomes for the SOA.  It is currently working to co-ordinate third sector contribution to the SOA outcomes, to ensure that contributions can be recognised and recorded.

¹Latest Volunteering Statistics, http://www.volunteerdevelopmentscotland.org.uk